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Symbolism from The Allegory of The Cave

Symbolism from The Allegory of The Cave

Author: Dean Hill

Learn archetypal symbolism for characters developing awareness.

Understand symbolism used in The Allegory of the Cave. Understand sequence of information is crafted and has purpose.

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Symbolism Primer

A quick review of common symbols and references to allegorical texts or actual allegories- you decide.


Try to define the symbols/ images.

Symbolism- Guess the meaning

Source: I made this

Symbolism reference sheet

This by no means is exhaustive or complete. Even as I preview it there are some symbols that have multiple meanings that are not credited. Online there are symbolism dictionaries but make sure the answer they give works for the text that you are reading.


Allegory of the Cave

The Allegory of the Cave

Before we start, let's make sure you understand some basic elements.


A type of narrative in which characters, events, and setting can represent abstract ideas or qualities. All characters, images, setting within an allegory is a symbolic piece of the abstraction (ideology) presented.


 A crafted portrayal of events, meaning that an author is presenting information/words/imagery in a specific order to elicit a response from a reader.


Some guiding questions

What is important about each setting?

 What events are presented?

Is the sequence important?

What are the possible symbols and their meaning?

Based on what you know about Grendel, thus far, how might “The Allegory of the Cave” relate?


An image for reference to the text

Source: Retreieved Sept 30, 2012 from

The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay

Source: Retrieved Sept. 30 from youtube, Uploaded by bullheadent on Apr 18, 2008

The Allegory of the Cave narrated by Orson Welles

Source: Retrieved Sept. 30 from youtube, Uploaded by 1GangRelated2 on May 2, 2009

The Allegory of the Cave - revision text

This was written in a more readerly format. It is a translation of the original text. This is written as a dialogue but the characters are not named (like in a script); consider the change or impact of the narrative technique of dialogue versus narration.


Source: Elliott, G.P. ed. Themes in World Literature. Boston. 1989. Houghton Mifflin. text


This probably isn't the first use of these tropes to relate an individual's conflict with society and and an awakening to the truth, but it is heavily referred to in print and film.

One of the most popular in recent history is The Matrix.


The same message is present but the "man/ individual" is not unleashed upon the world to understand the power of the construct.

Construct= paradigm= an organization of information used to facilitate, create and adapt input and produce meaning or understanding.

The Matrix - What is Real extended clip

Source: Retrieved Sept. 30 from youtube, Uploaded by RLeoncc on Feb 3, 2009

The Matrix and the Cave

Source: Retrieved Sept. 30 from youtube, Uploaded by acrobat741 on Nov 17, 2007

Connections to "Grendel" by John Gardner

What is significant in this sentence? And how does this create intertextuality to PLato's Allegory?


“Scat!” I hiss. “Go back to your cave, go back to your cowshed – whatever(5).”

Source: Gardber, J. Grendel. New York, 1989, Vintage Books. text.